Rainwater, Holt & Sexton | Injury Law Blog

Common Problems With Medical Records in Disability Cases

by Sydney Brown | February 1st, 2017

The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires you to prove, primarily through medical records, that you are disabled. This sounds simple enough at first glance, but have you ever actually seen your medical records? Odds are, your medical records contain many, if not all, of the common problems we see in disability cases. The good news is that you can take steps to help prevent these problems from continuing to appear in your medical records. Although there are many potential problems, this article will focus on the most common areas of concern: 1) complaints and side effects, 2) physical examinations, and 3) doctor recommendations.

Medical records are broken down into distinct sections. The first section is for subjective complaints, meaning the reason you are at the doctor’s office and the problems you are having. The second section is for objective observations. This is the portion of the record that contains the doctor’s physical examination notes. The third section is for any diagnoses for your medical condition(s). And finally, the fourth section is for the doctor’s plan of action. This is where your doctor will document if they are sending you to a specialist, if they are prescribing new medications, or if they want to send you out for further testing.

Problems With Complaints and Side Effects

The subjective complaint section of your medical records is crucial. SSA will look here, first. What do they look for? In short, everything. SSA wants to see what you are telling your doctor about your own symptoms and side effects. Did you come into the office with back pain because you injured yourself moving furniture, or did you simply twist the wrong way and it caused excruciating pain? Do your medications make you sleepy? Dizzy? Nauseous? Did the injection or surgery you had improve your pain?

The biggest problem here is that when you are disabled, you have to go to the doctor frequently. Frequent doctor’s visits lead to you just wanting to get the visit over with and get back home. So what do you say when the nurse or doctor asks why you’re there? “I’m here for my medication refills,” or “I’m here for my follow up.” You give quick, short answers to your doctor that yes, your medication is helping you. Even if it isn’t. And so, your medical records reflect those answers and that’s it.

When this happens, SSA holds that against you. SSA frequently cites to a claimant’s own statements to their doctor to help justify denying their case. For example, if you say you’re at the visit for “medication refills,” SSA says that your medication must be controlling and relieving your conditions because you aren’t complaining of pain or continued symptoms. If you never mention your medication side effects to your doctor, SSA uses your medical records to prove that you don’t actually experience side effects to the level you explain to them. So, how do you fix this?

Open up to your doctor or nurse at every appointment. Always say exactly what is happening with your mind or body, talk about the side effects from your medications, and rate your pain, symptoms, or improvement on a scale of 1-to-10. If you feel like you are repeating yourself every time you see the doctor, then you are probably doing an excellent job at fixing this common problem in medical records!

Physical Examinations

Physical examinations, or the objective observations of your doctor, are an equally crucial section of your medical records. SSA looks here to see whether your doctor physically sees that you have problems standing, squatting, bending, walking, gripping, getting on or off of the examination table, etc. The biggest problem here is that in many office visits, you’re already sitting when the doctor comes into the exam room. Then your doctor sits down and talks to you but doesn’t actually watch you walk, see you bend over, look at your spasming muscle, or even put their hands on you.

When your doctor doesn’t do these things, often times your medical records still reflect that he or she examined you. That’s right. And why is this a problem? Because odds are, that documented physical examination that never really happened likely says that everything looked normal. Walking? Normal. Bending? Normal. Strength? Normal. Breathing? Normal. When examinations appear normal in your records, SSA uses them to prove that your reports of pain or limitations are not as bad as you are reporting.

This is, thankfully, the easiest fix of them all. Be an advocate for yourself and make your doctor examine the things that you know are wrong. If you can’t bend over very far because of your back pain, show your doctor. If you walk with a limp, show your doctor. If you have swelling, show your doctor. And do this every time you get medical treatment, even if you’ve shown your doctor the very same things before.

Doctor Recommendations

Doctors don’t always write down what they tell you. Your doctor may tell you not to do certain activities, such as lifting above ten pounds. Or, the doctor tells you to go out and get a cane to help you walk. They might even tell you that they think you are disabled and should apply for disability. If your doctor does not write these things down, SSA says that it must not have happened.

Simply get your doctor to give you that information in writing for your own records. Then, give a copy of that record to your disability lawyer.

As you can see there are many factors that go into proving a disability with the SSA. Call Rainwater, Holt & Sexton to speak with an attorney and get help with your claim.

Who Can Be Held Liable In A Truck Accident Case?

by Mike Rainwater | January 31st, 2017

Determining liability in a truck accident case is not as straightforward as it might first seem. Unlike a simple traffic accident, more players are involved including the driver, the owner of the truck, the entity that leased the truck from the owner and possibly others.

Who Regulates Trucking Accidents?

State and federal laws regulate truck accidents. In addition to each individual state’s department of transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration determine and enforce trucking laws and regulations.

Several federal regulations exist to aide in determining liability. Any company that owns a trucking permit is responsible for all accidents involving a truck that has its name displayed on the vehicle. Prior to this regulation, trucking companies would attempt to avoid liability by pinning it on the driver or other parties.

Additional federal and state laws mandate proper rest for the driver, maximum weight permissions, quality control of trucks and safely transporting hazardous waste. If these laws are broken, it can prove negligence, therefore determining liability.

Determining Liability in a Truck Accident

To win a truck accident case, you need to prove that the driver, truck company or others were at fault and are responsible for your injuries. To prove fault, you’ll need to prove one of the entities involved broke the law, causing the accident and showing negligence – for example, that the truck driver ran a red light, or that the truck company hired an unqualified driver.

Because commercial vehicle accidents can be quite complicated, you should consult an experienced Arkansas truck accident attorney to determine what legal route should be taken and what parties are at fault.

Considering Bankruptcy? You Can Make Things Right

by Mike Rainwater | January 30th, 2017

Living paycheck to paycheck is simply part of life for many in Arkansas. When everything is going right, you have enough to pay your bills and perhaps a little left over. But when things go wrong, your financial situation can quickly deteriorate and leave you wondering how you’re ever going to again make ends meet.

At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, we’re amazed at just how quickly a family’s financial situation can go south. Whether it’s due to a series of unfortunate events or one life-changing circumstance, a family who has never had financial trouble can quickly find themselves thousands of dollars in debt with creditors breathing down their necks. If that sounds like your situation, rest assured that you and your family have options.

To most people, the word bankruptcy means something negative. Truth is, it’s a process by which you make things right, financially, so both you and your creditors can move on to more productive things. Our system of commerce depends upon it. That’s right, our system of commerce actually wants people to declare bankruptcy when they need to. That way, creditors can know if a debt is actually collectible or not.  If not, then all agree it needs to be discharged.  If part of a debt can be paid, then all agree a plan needs to be implemented to pay that part over time. In the Bankruptcy Code, this process is called a wage earner plan. It is a court-ordered debt consolidation plan with the benefit of discharge of that part of debts that cannot be paid. Filing bankruptcy is not about fear, shame or guilt. It is about doing the responsible. It is about clearing out uncollectible debt. It is about getting overwhelmed debtors off the sideline and back in the game of American commerce.  It’s about helping creditors identify what debt not to pursue, so they will not waste any more time and money pursuing uncollectible debt. Filing for needed debt relief — to be administered through the bankruptcy court — is something that is good for you, good for your creditors and good for America.

If you have fallen on financial hard times, call our experienced Arkansas bankruptcy attorneys today for a free consultation. If you’re considering filing bankruptcy in Arkansas, there’s a lot you need to know before you get started. Just call us. We’ll work to optimize your bankruptcy claim, so that you and your family can start again on the right foot. We will give you the information you need to take the right next financial steps. Don’t hesitate; contact us today.

The Tactical Reason to Call an Attorney

by Mike Rainwater | January 27th, 2017

At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton, we know why it is vital for an accident victim to call an attorney after a serious car accident. First of all, there is a financial reason. According to available statistical data analyzed for insurance companies, on average, car accident victims get more money with an attorney than without. A practical reason is that the personal injury attorney takes care of the heavy lifting so that you can focus on how to get better. And, there’s also a tactical reason, which most accident victims aren’t aware of—the other party likely may already have a lawyer on their side.

Automobile insurance companies provide an attorney to represent their policyholder (and to protect the company’s profits) in the event of a personal injury lawsuit. That attorney is provided automatically, and done without additional charge to the at-fault driver. But, when you are the accident victim, don’t expect your insurance company to do the same. The insurance company for the accident victim has no skin in the game. Thus, your insurance company won’t be paying for an attorney to represent you—to protect your best interests. You’re on your own.

Make no bones about it—a personal injury claim is a fight, and most often, that fight will come down to who you have on your side. The driver who hit you may already have a legal team on their side. Why wouldn’t you do the same?

If you’ve been injured, call our experienced Arkansas car accident attorneys today for a free consultation. Don’t go into the fight without help. Contact us today and get the full weight of our experience fighting for you.

Options for Recovering Lost Wages if you’ve Been Hurt in an Accident

by Mike Rainwater | January 27th, 2017

An injury from an auto accident can leave a victim unable to work, thus making it difficult to pay bills and support a family. If you were the victim of an accident at the fault of someone else, you have a right to be reimbursed for the income you lost while recovering. There are several options for recovering lost wages, but determining the right course of action is best done with the guidance of an auto accident lawyer.

Car Insurance May Cover Lost Wages

 Car insurance may be one viable option for recovering your lost wages. There are several types of coverage that can be used to collect lost wages.

  • If you were injured due to another driver’s negligence, you could submit a lost wages claim through the at-fault driver’s liability bodily injury coverage.
  • If an uninsured driver injured you, you may be able to collect lost wages through your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage – if this is part of your insurance plan.
  • In Arkansas, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage is optional, but if it is part of your plan, it will pay for your injuries and lost wages up to your policy’s limits.

Personal Injury Claim to Recover Lost Wages

If you find that your insurance policy or the driver’s car insurance policy are not adequate to recover your lost wages, you can consider filing a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. Traditionally courts rule that victims are entitled to reimbursement for all the income they lost while treating and recovering.

Beyond lost wages, victims are also entitled to any compensation over and above lost income like compensation for sick and vacation days, bonuses and other perks of employment.

If you have been left with no way to recover lost wages due to an accident, consult the Arkansas auto accident lawyers at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton.

How to Pay Down Unsecured Debt

by Mike Rainwater | January 26th, 2017

30 percent of Americans report that they have credit card debt, one of the most common types of unsecured debt. Unsecured debts are any debts not backed by an asset, like student loans or credit card bills. Secured debts are those like a car loan, where the bank can repossess an asset – in this case, the car – for delinquent payments.

Lenders will begin collection attempts after the borrower stops paying in the form of reminders, emails, letters and phone calls. After 30 days, the lender can report nonpayment to a credit reporting bureau which in turn will affect the borrowers credit score, leading to higher interest rates and difficulty getting future loans. Paying off debt is daunting. Here are a few ways to start paying down unsecured debt.

1. Pay off the highest interest rate debt first

If you have several forms of unsecured debt (for example, student loans, medical bills and credit card bills), the highest interest rate will usually be on your credit cards. Focus on the highest interest rate debt first because this is the one that can grow the quickest.

2. Make the minimum payment on all your debt, and pay more than the minimum if you can

If you’re not making the minimum payment on all of your debt, you’re hurting your credit even more. At the very least, pay the minimums and if you can, pay more than the minimum, focusing on the highest interest rate debt first.

3. Consolidate all credit card debt onto one card

Take advantage of special offers and credit cards that allow balance transfers. If it’s possible, transfer the balance of your higher interest rate credit cards to a lower interest rate credit card. Consolidating all credit card debt onto one card will allow you to focus on one balance at a lower interest rate.

4. Consider bankruptcy

The principal goal of filing for bankruptcy is to wipe out all unsecured debts, eliminating the borrowers obligation to repay the debt. In certain situations, filing for bankruptcy might make sense for the borrower.

It’s not unusual to carry some debt – 8 out of 10 Americans are in debt according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. However, when debt becomes insurmountable, it’s invaluable to seek guidance from those who can help. If you’re concerned about your unpaid debts, seek a free consultation from a Little Rock bankruptcy attorney, like the attorneys at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton.

GOOD WORKS! FEATURING RAINWATER, HOLT & SEXTON

by Richard Atkinson | January 25th, 2017

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At Rainwater, Holt & Sexton we’ve placed a great deal of importance on giving back to those in need. Our firm is honored to have been featured in the Arkansas Trial Lawyer Association’s quarterly journal, The Docket, for our community work throughout Arkansas. We’ve transformed our office culture to put charitable work at the forefront, whether it’s donations to ALS Arkansas, time spent at the Daisy Bates Elementary Community Garden, or continued involvement in efforts like Recycled Bikes for Kids. Our staff is committed to lending a hand to our Arkansas communities!

Read more about our featured charity work here.

Dangers of Trampoline Parks

by Jake Logan | January 25th, 2017

Over the past several years, the number of trampoline parks across the United States and particularly in Arkansas has significantly increased.  While these can be very fun for children they also present a risk. As the number of these parks increase, the number of injuries sustained at these facilities has skyrocketed. According to a recent study by CBS News’ Ashley Welch conducted between 2010 and 2014, the number of ER visits from injuries suffered at trampoline parks has risen from 581 to 6,932 nationwide.

Injuries suffered at trampoline parks range from ankle and leg injuries typically suffered on a trampolines to collisions between patrons jumping in a crowded area. Unfortunately, many people have also been injured due to poor maintenance of the trampolines due to an owner’s negligence. While you may want to seek legal assistance for any injury suffered at one of these parks, when it is obvious that the owner did not maintain the area where a person was injured, it is particularly important to get legal advice on how you can recover for your injuries or that of your children.

Trampoline parks likely require each patron to execute a release or waiver of liability before a person is allowed to enjoy the facility. Even though these releases can be valid in Arkansas, a release may not bar all types of claims an injured person may bring against a negligent park owner. It is important to have a lawyer review the release carefully to ensure that all of the formalities have been met by the trampoline park, and to investigate if there are other ways to recover for an injury you have suffered. Also, because most parks have cameras with footage that may help prove your case, you will want to have the lawyer intervene soon after the injury to make sure that footage is not lost.

Because these parks are rather new, they are not well regulated across each state for safety. However, there is a list of safety standards that trampoline parks should and are encouraged to follow. If you or your family member is hurt in a trampoline park, even if you signed a waiver before playing in the park, call Rainwater, Holt & Sexton to enlist the help of a personal injury lawyer and make sure your right to recover for your injury is being protected.

Understanding The Nursing Home Resident’s Bill Of Rights

by Mike Rainwater | January 23rd, 2017

Nursing homes are required under federal law to give all residents a copy of their rights before or at the time they are admitted. Residents’ rights exist to ensure a high quality of life for elders and have existed since the 1980’s when concerns about neglect and poor quality of care in nursing homes led to resident-focused regulations.

In 1980, the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act was passed to protect residents of nursing homes and similar facilities. Then, in 1987, a group of amendments known as the Federal Nursing Home Reform act were added, including one section on nursing home residents’ rights.

These new rights required nursing homes to provide facilities and care that ensured residents had a high quality of life and were able to get the care and services they needed. Nursing homes must meet the requirements outlined in the residents’ rights if they participate in Medicare or Medicaid. On the contrary, nursing homes that receive only state funds may not have to abide by the “bill of rights.”

What are the Residents’ Rights?

The nursing home residents’ rights as described in the Federal Nursing Home Reform act entitle residents, at the minimum, the right to:

  • Be treated with respect
  • Participate in activities
  • Be free from discrimination, abuse, neglect and restraints
  • Make complaints
  • Get proper medical care
  • Have their representative notified in the event of a complication or health event, or other change
  • Get information on services and fees
  • Manage their money
  • Get proper privacy, property and living arrangements
  • Spend time with visitors
  • Get social services
  • Leave the nursing home
  • Have protection against unfair transfer or discharge
  • Form or participate in resident groups
  • Have their family and friends involved

What Happens if a Nursing Home Fails to Meet these Rights?

 If you feel that the residents’ rights of a loved one have been violated, the nursing home may be contributing to nursing home neglect by breaching their duty of care to the resident. Call a nursing home neglect lawyer to discuss the signs of nursing home problems and what legal options are available to you.

Should I Hire An Attorney If I’ve Had Transvaginal Mesh Complications?

by Mike Rainwater | January 21st, 2017

Complications from transvaginal mesh procedures have been in the public eye since the late 2000s. Claims that the procedure was not properly tested before it was marketed to doctors and physicians have led to over 100,000 lawsuits against device manufacturers from women who experienced serious complications following the use of transvaginal mesh. If you have had a procedure that used transvaginal mesh and experienced painful complications, discuss your situation with an attorney.

Complications from Transvaginal Mesh

Transvaginal mesh is used to give better suspension to the tissues in the vagina, to prevent the bladder, uterus or rectum from descending from the vagina – a condition called pelvic organ prolapse. The mesh essentially reinforces the existing native tissue in the vagina to provide better support.

Doctors introduced the procedure in the early 2000s to replace a previous procedure that had a high failure rate. However, transvaginal mesh was introduced so quickly that it wasn’t properly tested for long-term results. At the time it went on the market, there was no long-term data or clinical trials.

Women started complaining of pain, bleeding and erosion from transvaginal mesh. In some cases, the mesh can move from the vaginal wall to other organs causing serious issues. The FDA released warnings in 2008 and 2011, and in 2014 it reclassified transvaginal mesh procedures from moderate-risk to high-risk.

Transvaginal Mesh Lawsuits

Lawsuits against device manufacturers started to appear in the late 2000s. In January 2016, Johnson & Johnson agreed to a $120 million settlement, settling up to 3,000 lawsuits with over 42,000 still pending against the manufacturer of one popular transvaginal mesh product. The plaintiffs claim they suffered organ damage and were left in constant pain because of the product, and allege that it was poorly designed and poorly tested.

Johnson & Johnson is just one of several device makers who are embroiled in product liability lawsuits. If you have been harmed by a transvaginal mesh procedure, you could be due compensation for pain, suffering, lost wages and more. Discuss your situation with an Arkansas transvaginal mesh attorney to determine if you are one of the tens of thousands who has been affected by this product.

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